Category: Uncategorised

The Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S: The Pick of the Bunch!

In the last few decades, the car world has seen seismic changes in consumer tastes. From the traditional box shape saloons reigning supreme, to the awkward stage of MPVs, and now we’re faced with a sea of SUVs. Everything these days seems to be an SUV/crossover of some flavour and distinguishing your vehicle from not only your competitors, but within your own stable, has become increasingly difficult.

For instance, the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S on tests costs R2.9 million without options. The Coupe version will set you back another R70 000.For R3.2 million you can jump into the larger GLS 63 and for R100 000 on top of that your bum will be in the seat of a G63.
Now, a R400 000 difference for you and I may seem like quite a lot of money but when we’re talking sums as large as this, it’s a little less significant.

It’s also important to the note that all models mentioned above use the same engine – a 4.0-litre biturbo V8. So, my question is where exactly does the GLE 63 S actually fit in? If we’re looking at size and looks, then sure there’s a notable difference. But when we’re talking performance alone, is there a need for the GLE 63 seeming you’ll get similar performance elsewhere in the range?

The short and sweet of that is yes! In fact, it would probably be the one I’d most recommend to anyone shopping in this segment. Or rather, it’s the one that speaks to me most of all.
You see, the GLS is a larger and heavier vehicle and as such the dynamics are compromised. The sprint time of 4.2 seconds is quite off the GLE’s time of 3.8 seconds even though they produce the same amount of power. Sure, if you need the additional space then the former is the right option, albeit with less gusto.
The G63 might be a cult classic and probably the ‘coolest’ car of the lot but it is the least powerful and has the slowest sprint time of 4.5 seconds. It’s 20kW down in comparison to the other two and has the slowest top speed of 240km/h. So, in essence, the GLE 63 seems to be the true performance bang for your buck in the Mercedes-AMG SUV line-up.

If I do have one reservation about the GLE 63, it’s that it looks a bit demure, particularly in the specification we tested. The Panamericana grille and massive vents are distinctively AMG and assert the domineering presence of the GLE, but it may be mistaken for the lesser 53 variant. While some may appreciate the more reserved exterior, there is an extensive option list where you’re able to build your perfect specification. The 22” cross-spoke alloys are a must for me!

While we’re on the topic of tailoring your GLE, the cabin has a plethora of technology and luxury amenities that you’re able to configure to your exact liking. The MBUX infotainment system that includes two 12.3” screens that span across the dashboard should be familiar to most Mercedes owners, but it is still one of the most standout aspects of this interior. The latest system fitted is easy to navigate and very responsive, while the digital display behind the driver has multiple design configurations and can display any vital information for the driver. Although Mercedes-Benz has introduced a new steering wheel design featured on the latest E-Class, I must admit that I prefer this current design. The touch-sensitive pads are easier to use and the alcantara finish is certainly a nice touch.

On the road, the ride quality is slightly firmer than what I would like it to be, but the saving grace is the 21” rims fitted to our press unit which provide a bit more cushioning. The 22” cross-spoke alloys will result in an even harsher ride. The AMG Active Ride Control air suspension, which is standard on the GLE 63 and an option on the 53, does provide some suppleness over more jarring surfaces but you will feel the harsher imperfections. In saying that, I do feel that competitors like the BMW X5 M Competition ride slightly harder than the GLE 63.

The biggest drawcard of the GLE 63 is its 4.0-litre V8. Generally, that engine is phenomenal with linear power delivery that doesn’t seem to plateau, and a soundtrack like none other. Power on offer is 450kw and 850Nm, plus the addition of AMG’s mild-hybrid EQ Boost assist which provides an additional 16kW and 250Nm temporarily. As mentioned previously, the 100km/h sprint time comes up in a mere 3.8 seconds and at no point did the engine feel like it was waning for power. In fact, I suspect Mercedes-AMG were quite conservative with those sprint time figures. The 9-speed transmission is somewhat lazy in its calibration where it would be slightly sluggish on the downshifts and over eager on the upshifts, particularly when approaching corners. While the changes are crisp and responsive, the calibration needs to be worked on slightly to ensure that you are always in the optimal gear.

When tackling corners, the GLE 63 truly outshines its stablemates and where you notice the advantage of having a stiffer suspension set up. The front-end bites well into the corners and body rolls remains very composed and stable. Compared to the larger GLS 63, you certainly have more confidence in tackling corners as you are able to gauge the heft of the car with better accuracy, meaning you have more ability to take corners at a higher speed.

All-in-all, the GLE 63 S is a highly competent high-performance SUV that, in my opinion, is the pick of the bunch in terms of Mercedes-AMG’s line-up but is also right up there in terms of its competitors. You get the most amount of performance without sacrificing anything in terms of luxury and refinement. You also save yourself a fair amount of money, if that matters to you.

The Peugeot 3008, a modern day French artwork

France is a country that is besotted with the idea of romance and beauty, when they are not being impolite to English speaking tourists, of course. They are a nation renowned for the City of Love and the world famous Louvre, housing some of the most priceless and beautiful artworks ever created. The products they produce embody the environment they are created in, such as the eternally stylish compositions from fashion moguls like Coco Chanel or industrial design heavyweights like Phillipe Starck. If you haven’t gotten the picture yet, France knows a thing or two about style. 

So why are French brands often overlooked by consumers in the local automotive market? Peugeot for example is a brand that is no stranger to reigning supreme in Car of the Year competitions, the pre facelift 3008 itself being a former victor and the smaller 208 hatchback holding the current title in the B-segment. These recent accolades alone allude to a highly capable brand with an appetite to create and innovate. However, their creations lack the status of more premium marques and traditionally carry an exacerbated and unfair negative reputation for poor after-sales and maintenance. 

Moving onto the Peugeot 3008 then, a car which I was most eager to get behind the wheel of as a result of my aesthete preference (I am fascinated by beautiful things). From the offset, it holds an attractive presence, sure it does not hold the high repute that its German rivals instill into pedestrians but copious amounts of chrome and overbearing grilles do not always mean more beautiful. I had a quick walk-around and realized this would shoot well from any angle, something that is not common when many affordable modern cars feature in front of my lens. 

While this is the facelift of the already attractive second generation, both are far superior to the original blob shaped 3008 which was produced between 2008 and 2016. As with most evolutions, the recent iteration takes the cake. Other than a drastically reshaped front end and minor interior updates and infotainment improvements, nothing much has changed from its pre-facelift predecessor. It retains well proportioned SUV dimensions and manages to hold an aggressive stance – compliments of a headlight-integrated horizontal front grille while the rear light feature of the car successfully accentuates its width. A suitable mixture of chrome, gloss black and durable plastic trim line the extremities while LED lights illuminate the car in the dark, a feature which is arguably aligned to Peugeot’s updated feline corporate identity and logo.

Prospective buyers will be happy to know that the pièce de résistance of the 3008 lies in its sumptuous interior. In our top of the range GT-Line, the attractive exterior continues inside the cabin, drivers and passengers are met with a combination of plush materials, overlapping surfaces, subtle illumination and an elevated but comfortable seating position. Spaciousness is a strong selling point, with ample room for 5 adults and copious cabin storage, the boot can hold 520l too if the full size spare is ditched and the false floor is dropped to its lowest level. 

Getting behind the wheel presents an experience of its own, the driver has no choice but to grip onto a small, low slung, octagonally shaped steering wheel which is positioned just below the dashboard mounted i-Cockpit. This combined with the angled infotainment screen and fighter-jet shaped dials cocoon the driver but once the excitement has subsided, the upright, elevated seating position reaffirms any anticipated expectations of its driving capability. This is only a Peugeot 3008, no matter how much it feels like the cockpit of the Concorde. Just like the front seat of the supersonic French airliner, the 3008 suffers from limited visibility; the sloping rear roofline creates a miniature rear orifice to glimpse out of and the thick A pillar, bulky side-mirror and tweeter intersect exactly where you need to see adjacent traffic from. 

Improvements in the interior include a redesigned infotainment screen which implements a simple bottom ledge that assists in navigating the user interface while driving on uneven surfaces. The small and irregular shape of the steering wheel means that the stalks and cruise control dials are often concealed which makes immediate assimilation quite difficult. Where the 3008’s interior feels outdated is the front and rear cameras which lack clarity on the large 12.3” digital cluster however the standard-equipment PDC makes up for the shortcomings of the camera. 

Despite its sporty interior features and aggressive styling, this is still a run of the mill Peugeot SUV which comes with satisfactory performance and handling for a vehicle of its stature. The body is firm in cornering and the motor feels sufficiently powered in day-to-day applications; albeit on the less economical side of the spectrum, returning 8.4l/100km in combined driving scenarios. The 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine is standard across all three derivatives in the range and is claimed to churn out a maximum of 121kW and 240Nm as low as 1400rpm. While it makes light work of overtaking on the open road, quickly accelerating the 1390kg mass from stationary seems like a laborious task.

The steering at slow speeds is firm while the brakes are responsive with good pedal feedback. Its 6-speed automatic transmission is sublime for sedate driving scenarios but can be lethargic in upshifting or when manually interacting with the small paddle shifters. This can be remedied in the sport mode which makes for slightly snappier gear changes and improved throttle response but I can confidently say that this is a far better suited as a comfortable cruiser. I did not have the courage to take this off-road, since it would look completely out of place but despite its solitary FWD layout, Peugeot claims that its Grip Control system can do most things a true 4WD can. 

In typical French fashion, this C-SUV does come with as many quirks as it has standard features, but if you are style conscious and not status driven, the Peugeot 3008 is the one for you. Our fully equipped, top of the range GT-Line comes in at R644 900 and includes a 5 year/100 000km service plan and warranty but the more affordable Active derivative can be had from R514 900. This is a car that would look perfectly at home with the Louvre in the background or equally as natural trundling past some of our own beautiful, contemporary architecture. Most importantly, it will put a smile on your face everytime you manage a coup d’oeil of it!

Can the BMW 128ti usurp the Golf GTI from its throne?

We compare the facts and figures! 

We recently drove the new 128ti on its debut in Mzanzi towards the end of February, read about its road test here: Since BMW recently launched their new 1 series (F40 generation) hatchback in 2019 there has been speculation of a variant that would rival the likes of the local hot-hatch king: the Golf 8 GTI (which was locally delayed to the third quarter of 2021 because of a global shortage of semiconductor chips). The new Front Wheel Drive 128ti is what they brought to the party, but how does it stack up against the formidable GTI? 

The highly anticipated M135i was seemingly a bit of a let down to the automotive press (, leaving much to be desired from its predecessor. However the 2-litre 4 pot 128ti could be the right variation for Bavarian die hards wanting a fun, affordable hatchback. While it rejects the norms of BMW’s typical hatch lineage, none of its forerunners have ever embraced the true recipe for a funky hot hatch, until now. That being said, any brand that spends time and budget developing an FWD hot hatch will stack it up directly against the GTI in the hopes of being a worthy adversary, so how does the BMW do:

BMW 128ti

2.0T 4cyl turbo, 195kW and 400Nm

0-100 6.3 seconds (claimed), 250km/h (limited)

5.7l/100km, 158g/km


FWD, 8 speed automatic

R687 418


2.0T 4cyl turbo, 180kW and 370Nm

0-100 6.4 seconds (claimed), 250km/h (limited)

6.2l/100km, 168g/km


FWD, 7 speed dual clutch automatic

Pricing is TBC

While the numbers marginally favour the Bavarian hot hatch (on paper at least), the GTI will continue to enjoy its cult status in our local market. While we are yet to test the new Golf 8 which is expected to arrive very soon, our opinion is that the BMW may just be a more engaging and complete package to drive for enthusiasts. It is lighter, slightly more powerful and makes use of an engaging mechanical diff. Both are well specced with standard equipment already included at their base price points and both have top speeds limited at 250km/h. VW’s desirable cult following of this segment are where BMW would have fallen short, but shrewdly instilled a form of heritage by reinvigorating the Turismo Internazionale (TI) nameplate that was so prominent with the brands success in the late 1960’s.

BMW has taken a stride into a new direction with the 128ti, and by doing so they have leapfrogged some of the competition in the front-wheel drive hot hatch market. Until we can make direct comparisons between the two, we believe the GTI may have met its German match.

The Chinese are coming… No, the Chinese are here!

If you take notice of the cars on our roads, you will see an abundance of models from the likes of Toyota, Volkswagen and Ford. You might also note a large contingent of premium brands – ranging in price and age but highly sought after on the new and used markets for those who have the cash.

So, to sum up our car market up in a simple phrase, it would be that we are fiercely brand loyal and we like nice things.
So how does an outlier make any inroads? Do you remember Renault back in the early 2000’s? Their reputation certainly wasn’t stellar and many flocked to the mainstream competitors in the wake of countless problems experienced with the French brand. 2013 comes around, the new Clio makes its debut with beautiful looks, up-to-date tech and a reasonable price. That was the catalyst for the brand and it’s that same recipe that competitors like Hyundai and Kia subsequently used in order to elevate their acclaim in the eyes of South Africans.

And what about the Chinese? Well, many have tried and failed. Actually, let me rephrase: many have entered our shores with low commitment and no knowledge of our market, which meant their time here was quite fleeting and did them more harm than good.
Then comes Haval/GWM – they’ve been in the country for many years now and since the very beginning, they have reinforced their intentions for our market. They’ve seen steady increases to their sales year-after-year and have garnered quite a positive reception from South African consumers looking for value and affordability. But they needed a game changer – something that will make people say ‘is that really a Haval?’ They needed their rendition of the Clio.

Enter the Jolion and what will be a massive turning point for the brand!

First of all, just look at it! It’s hugely attractive with great proportions and striking features. The distinctive headlamps and DRLs gives the Jolion’s front end quite a unique look, while the large grille and C-shaped taillights means it wouldn’t look out of place in fashionable European cities. No surprise then that it was penned by Phil Simmons – you might know his work from Land Rover and Ford.

The Jolion is intended to slot between the H6 and H2 in Haval’s local line-up, with the intention that the latter will soon be phased out. In terms of size, the Jolion measures at just under 4.5m long, which means its slightly larger than rivals like the Mazda CX-30, Hyundai Venue and Peugeot 2008. In fact, it could fall into a larger category where the likes of the Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4 compete in. The boot can swallow 337l, which again outshines the rivals listed above. Good job Haval!

So, it’s got the looks and the space, but does it drive as well as the others? Let’s start with the engine – you only have one choice which is a 1.5-litre turbo petrol churning out 105kW and 210Nm. On paper this might not seem that impressive, but in the real world application it does a good enough job of lugging around its surprisingly large body. For comparison sake, the Peugeot 2008 produces 96kW and 230Nm from it’s 1.2-litre turbo petrol, while the Hyundai Creta makes use of a 1.4-litre turbo petrol that’s good for 103kW and 242Nm. So in essence, the Jolion is there or thereabouts in terms of power.

Utilizing the Chinese companies latest platform, which they call L.E.M.O.N, the Jolion’s overall ride comfort is vastly superior to any other product experienced from the Asian manufacturer. Most imperfections on the road are soaked up with ease but you will feel vibrations through the steering wheel when tackling more jarring surfaces. The suspension is tuned to a softer setting which makes every day cruising quite enjoyable, although body roll is evident when tackling corners with a bit of vigour. But that’s a compromise we will always accept when it comes to a crossover.

Lesser models make use of a 6-speed manual gearbox while the more expensive derivatives get the luxury of of a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. We only experienced the latter from launch and initial impression were positive. The gearbox reacted intuitively to throttle inputs and shifted through the gears without much of a fuss. However, the lower-end turbo lag didn’t do the gearbox many favours as it sometimes struggled to find the right gear, particularly when faced with an uphill or an overtaking situation.

In terms of safety features, there is adaptive cruise control with autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning with lane keeping assist and a lane centre assist system that will steer the vehicle for a few seconds without driver input. While these are fantastic features, they are slightly intrusive – particularly the lane keep assist which became rather annoying as it constantly tried to pull you back in line. If you have the know-how and time, these systems can be turned off.

Although there have been no crash-tests conducted, consumers can feel at ease knowing that the Jolion is fitted with dual front airbags, ABS brakes, electronic stability control, driver fatigue detection and a tyre pressure monitoring system. While the higher spec models gain curtain airbags.

The real party piece of the Jolion is the interior which is extremely well-equipped and furnished in tasteful materials of a sturdy build quality. A 12.3” touchscreen takes pride and place where you can control most operations of the car. The operating system is easy to navigate and is responsive to your touches. There is a smaller touch-sensitive panel below the screen that provides shortcuts for certain functions. While the placement is convenient, I did find that I often rested my arm on the panel whilst navigating through the touchscreen, meaning that I would sometimes mistakenly press one of the buttons. A small bugbear but one I’m sure Jolion owners will get used to.

Other notable features on our range-topping Super Luxury model are a 360° parking camera, high beam assist, heads up display, electrically-adjustable leather seats, 18” alloys, a panoramic sunroof, LED headlights and multiple driving modes. The list of standard specification is plentiful even on the entry-level models. These are features one can expect to pay quite handsomely for in premium brands and here you are getting it in a Haval!

The range kicks off with the 1.5T City manual which retails for R299 900 and goes up to just under R400 000 for our Super Luxury model. These prices aren’t just good, they’re extremely good! At the launch event, I cheekily asked the National Sales Manager whether they were even making a profit on these cars, to which he just laughed. I don’t understand how Haval have managed to include so much tech and amenities into a car that is priced that low?

And that’s why I believe that the Jolion will be a game changer for the brand – it ticks every single box a consumer is looking for at a very competitive price with features that many brands simply cannot compete with. If you look back to the competitors we mentioned earlier, most of them start at the R400 000 mark, so in fact the Jolion’s true rivals are a segment below with the likes of the Suzuki Vitara Brezza and Hyundai Venue.

I have been to China twice with Haval, and having seen their factories, R&D centres and design studios, I can unequivocally state that this is a brand to watch out for. With even more new products on the way and the hopes to expand their dealership network to over 100 dealers by the end of the year, Haval is truly flying high!

You think you’re a good driver? Think again…

The reality of working as a motoring journalist means that our bums are in the seats of multiple cars quite often. Everything from the everyday runabouts to high performance exotica. Most of us also have a number laps under our belt at many local circuits when a manufacturer had hosted us for a product launch.

And throughout the years, I’ve often thought of myself as a good driver as I’ve at least managed to maintain a clean record – apart from the infrequent and shamable rim scuff. However, I’ve never had a certificate with my name saying I’ve completed an advanced drivers course – which you can submit to your insurance and you should receive a discount. Tell them I sent you!

So when Volkswagen South Africa offered us a chance to complete the high performance driving course, I simply could not refuse!
Volkswagen Advanced Driving is located at Zwartkops Raceway in Gauteng. They recently moved into new facilities on the track which boasts multiple stories, a shop and of course some serious eye-candy!
What you’re looking at is the Golf 8 GTI GTC which was purpose built to compete in the Global Touring Car Championship. In fact, it was the first-ever race car built on the 8th generation Golf. Figures of 370kW and 600Nm are potent! We have racing in our blood!

Volkswagen Advanced Driving offers many courses, from an anti-hijacking course to an off-roading course with the mighty Amarok. Although we are here to experience the high performance variety, the overall message is of course safety. The purpose of this is to not make you a faster driver, but rather a more skilled and confident driver that understands the systems fitted to their cars.

The morning began with a theory lesson as a precursor to our time on the skidpan. Here you are taught everything from grip, road conditions and how each system fitted to the car actually works. It was very insightful and imperative to understanding and controlling the car on the skidpan.

Volkswagen makes use of their Golf GTI and R models for the high performance course. Figures of 169kW and 350Nm for the front-wheel drive GTI and 228kW and 400Nm from the all-wheel drive R model are more than enough to get your adrenaline sky high around the skidpan. We were in the Golf R for the entire duration of the day.

Soon enough, we made our way down to the skipan where our main focus was understanding the differences between braking using the anti-lock braking system (ABS) and then trying not to engage the system through hard braking. The point of this is to teach you how to articulate the brake pedal to stop in the same distance as if you had used ABS – meaning you are more in control in scenarios where you need to suddenly come to a stop.

The next important lesson involved teaching us how the car will react to sudden and sharp turns on the steering wheel. The goal here is to do the manoeuvre as smoothly and gently as possible while trying to bring the car back in line after the turn.
We reached a speed of 70km/h before we were instructed to either sharply turn left or right. Our first run involved a scenario where you would violently tug at the wheel and consequently the car would get extremely out of shape. Nearing almost a 90° rotation before the traction control and other systems kicked in to bring it back in line. Clearly not the right way to do it.

The second run we were instructed to do the same turn, at the same speed, but to turn the steering wheel with similar urgency but smoother and with a deft touch. The differences were remarkable! The Golf R has the ability to send power and brake any wheel while losing traction to stabilize the car. This meant that we always remained composed and I was able to safely, and less dramatically, bring myself back in line. In traffic situations, that’s the difference between life and death.

So, now that we know how to correctly steer and stop a car, our instructors felt brave enough to let us out onto the track.
Zwartkops Raceway boasts 8 corners and total circuit length of 2.4km. We were given a briefing about each corner of the track and the importance of your entry and exit line and how that will effect your braking and speed.

With all that out of the way, we were given 4 sessions consisting of 2 laps each. While the instructor does have to be in the car with you, masks are worn all the times and strict Covid-19 protocols are followed.

This was a true test of what we had learnt on the skidpan as now you don’t have the safety of water and open space. Here you’re carrying much greater speed on a track with other drivers. In other words, this was the most exhilarating part of it all!
You need to be aware of your speed, the correct racing line, braking and accelerating points. With the instructor by your side, your confidence begins to soar as he guides you around the circuit, making sure you hit every apex and you are safe at all times. At some point, I felt I could challenge the greats like Mike Briggs and Tschops Sipuka! Yeah, not really but my aspirations to become motorsport super star died many moons ago.

After a full day on the track, myself and many others who attended the course left with massive smiles on our faces and hopefully we will be safer and more confident drivers on the roads too. Pricing is very reasonable with the GTI course costing R4150 and if you want to the more powerful R model, it’s just R500 more at R4550. Seeming you get a full lunch, an enthusiastic and highly skilled advanced driving team and memories that will last a life time, it’s well worth it!
Head over to to find out more.

Honda’s WR-V wants a piece of the compact crossover cake

Honda recently launched their WR-V model, which wants a piece of the most competitive segment in South Africa, but is their newcomer the right car for the job? We recently got to experience the liveability of the affordable 1.2 Comfort model. 

The Tokyo-based automaker is no stranger to SUVs, with a broad range on offer from the modest BR-V to the more luxurious CR-V models – this was Honda’s induction into the world of sport utility vehicles in 1995. Suffice to say, they have an impressive history and current portfolio with extensive experience in the field, more than most of their competitors. Dinesh Govender, Honda GM states that the WR-V is positioned below the HR-V and alongside the BR-V, making it their most affordable five-seater compact SUV to date. Partly thanks to components and underpinnings being shared with the popular Jazz model.

That being said, Honda has followed the typical recipe of creating a compact SUV by taking one of their most popular, compact, FWD commuter vehicles and putting it through a stringent routine to get it buff enough to take on market leading bullies such as the dominant Ford Figo Freestyle or Renault Sandero Stepway. This, on paper at least, is a good thing – the Jazz (of which it is based) is a nippy little runabout that is comfortable and usable with a smooth drivetrain and an excess of spaciousness. 

On the outside, the silhouette remains unmistakably that of the current Jazz model with a similarly strong shoulder line feeding into the rear taillights while the rear-end exudes a similar busy-looking Asian-esque aesthetic. The extremities of the car are moulded in durable looking black plastic trim and the bottom of the front and rear bumpers feature butch looking silver diffusers. Honda is confident with the 173mm of ground clearance and short overhangs on the model since scratches and rashes on the low lying silver painted features would be visibly prominent. The front grille makes use of horizontal slats that allude to a widened track, rendering the perception of it being a capable SUV while the 16” alloy wheels finish the four corners of the car.

While this compact WR-V’s styling may not have been designed to win any beauty pageants, what it does succeed with is interior spaciousness and undeniable Honda reliability. Again, the interior arrangement is almost identical to that of its shorter Jazz sibling, with the layout of all dials, center console and vents positioned similarly. Both driver and passengers are afforded with ample leg, head and shoulder room which makes this a great option for longer journeys. 

Additionally, the ‘Magic Seat’ system makes light work of configuring the rear seats to swallow any parcels, bicycles or obscurely shaped luggage with an admirable 881 litres of cargo space once the seats have been folded into their most compact position. In a conventional configuration with 5 passengers, the boot can hold an equally suitable 363 litres, which is impressive on a sub 4-meter vehicle which has ample second row seat legroom. 

The driver dials consist of an analog rev counter and speedometer as well as a digital display with other crucial information. The Comfort model is equipped with a 5” touchscreen which has access to radio, bluetooth and the reverse camera which is quite un-useful due to its minute size. However, for what the small reverse screen fell short in displaying, the PDC equipped on the car assisted comfortably with. We would opt for the more suitably sized 7” infotainment screen found on the Elegance model. 

The WR-V range comprises two derivatives, Comfort and Elegance, both only employ the same punchy and fuel efficient 1.2-litre powertrain and five-speed manual transmission that is proven in countless other models. The ratings of 66kW and 110Nm did not struggle to move the 1081kg mass nimbly forward but the lack of a 6th gear for highway speeds impeded its comfort and efficiency at the maximum national speed limit. A combined fuel consumption figure of just 6.4 l/100km is claimed however we achieved 6.8 l/100km with our journeys being dominated by urban routes. As in the Jazz, the drive is comfortable but does not reward more exciting driving habits. 

Honda employs their tested Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure which allows for the even distribution and redirection of collision energy away from the passenger compartment in the scenario of an accident. Additionally, six SRS airbags, ISOFIX child seat anchors as well as an ABS with EBD are included as standard safety equipment across both models. 

In terms of pricing, the 1.2 Comfort model as we tested costs R 289 900 and the 1.2 Elegance coming in at R 327 300. This is unfortunately on the pricey end of the spectrum in comparison to the Ford Figo Freestyle, which tops out at R268 500 while the Renault Sandero Stepway maxes out less than both with a retail sticker of R251 900. Both models also come with Honda’s five-year/200 000km warranty, backed by a four-year/60 000km service plan.

A portion of the success of this SUV hangs on the reputation Honda have established in their extensive people carrier range. The WR-V garners inspiration from two of its best-selling siblings, the Jazz and BR-V yet the cheaper Jazz (which also includes a derivative equipped with a CVT) may still seem like the most logical option if you are looking for a reliable 5-seater that will comfortably get you from A to B.

Celebrating the original Pony car with Shelby South Africa on World Mustang Day

April 17th is the anniversary date that many historians would associate with the Bay of Pigs fiasco, which saw a failed coup of Castro’s Communist Cuban government by the USA. To the average auto enthusiast it is perhaps the day to celebrate the birth-date of former Formula 1 driver and flame-jumper Romain Grosjean. However, for the American muscle car fanatic or V8 obsessed aficionado, the day is reserved for the celebration of the first and most iconic Pony car: the Ford Mustang. For those of you enjoying the history lesson, read on. 

It is the early 1960’s and the world is experiencing an economic boom as a result of the consumerist ready baby-boomers (before they lost the plot and ruined it all). There is a palpable excitement with the space race between the two global superpowers, bolstering the world’s obsession with speed. Events like Formula 1, Le Mans and the Indy 500 are being broadcast via radio around the world and are often the buzz of motoring news. Headlines are being made with European automakers who are continually ousting their competitors for production car speed records. 

These were the conditions that made for a perfect storm, one that the Ford Mustang was born out of. There was an untapped market that appealed to the lust of affordable speed that the working class baby boomer was beginning to express interest towards. It consisted of four seats, two doors and was draped in the sheet metal bodylines synonymous with European sports cars of the time. Beautifully proportioned with a long hood and short rear overhang – the age old recipe for an attractive, sporty looking car. Ford General Manager at the time, Lee Iacocca wanted to be the first to market with this concept, one that if it succeeded would in essence create its own segment of vehicle – Ford’s car of the future.  

Thus on the 17th of April in 1964 at the World Fair hosted in New York, Henry Ford II himself unveiled the car for the first time. With a name which itself was embroiled in native history, shared by the free roaming wild horses of the Western United States and the American P-51 single seat fighter which liberated the Axis-occupied nations during World War 2. It was destined to be a true American Icon. 

The unveiling was coincidentally planned with the showroom debut of the new Pony car, which in its first day alone sold 22 000 units and eventually succeeded in selling 400 000 in its inaugural year. It earned instant fame and instilled itself in the hearts and minds of Americans while the opposition of Chevrolet, Dodge, AMC and Plymouth were left in awe, scrambling in disarray to get a piece of that cake. The Mustang was available in four engine configurations, the most powerful option equipped a 289ci (4.7 litre) V8 producing a respectable 202kW. It was the first time a sleek coupe was made affordable to the common man, weighing less than 2500lbs for under $2500.

In the span of just under 60 years, the Mustang has become one of the most identifiable American products to the rest of the world, arguably more American than consumerism itself. It has generated a strong rapport with popular culture and featured in dozens of movies and TV shows since that date in 1964. It made its big screen debut the same year of its release courtesy of James Bond’s 1964 Goldfinger while the seductive Eleanor Fastback from the 2000 automotive cinematic masterpiece, Gone in 60 Seconds was probably the most iconic to us younger generations (no I did not forget about Steve McQueen’s Bullitt, boomer).  

So, where does World Mustang Day originate from you may be asking? Shelby South Africa were gracious hosts in educating some of us less knowledgeable petrolheads on the history of the event which they have spearheaded locally. Upon the 50th anniversary of its unveiling, the golden jubilee in 2014 saw owners and fans celebrating the icon by arranging events which congregated owners and aficionados to honour the icon. It has subsequently garnered global attraction and morphed into a worldwide phenomenon which is now celebrated annually. It is a day where (mostly) V8 goodness reigns supreme with the affordable sports car rightfully being the focal point.

Among the impressive collection at the Shelby showroom were jaw dropping continuation models including the Shelby Daytona Coupe, Shelby Cobra and a GT40 – all equipped with monstrous V8’s. In polarizing fashion from its oil burning and inefficient precursors, the all new electric derivative in the Mustang stable hopes to be at the forefront of a new segment, it is Ford’s modern day interpretation of the car of the future just as the original was in 1964. Regardless, owners of the original Pony car remain stalwarts for the true American Icon. World Mustang Day is one of the celebratory events that makes me love being a car-guy, not only for experiencing the icons in the metal but for also embracing the best the community has to offer.

It’s an AMG Onslaught!

Mercedes-Benz South Africa debuted their new range of AMG SUVs and we attended the local launch to bring you more.

By now I’m sure you’ve all heard the news that Mercedes-AMG will introduce a 2.0-litre hybrid engine into their historically bonkers, V8-powered C 63. And while many may have been left dumbstruck at the death of an engine that has become so endearing to the brand, the times are indeed changing. While we’re at it, here’s another healthy dose of a reality check: that engine will probably at some stage filter into the remaining AMG cars and before you know it, goodbye V8.   

But the purpose of this review is not to instill a morbid outlook on the future, but a gentle reminder that if you want an AMG with a V8 engine then best you snap one up quickly.

Which neatly brings me onto the range of cars that we had at our disposal last week when Mercedes-Benz South Africa hosted us at their Advanced Drivers Academy at Zwartkops Raceway.

Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 4MATIC+

First things first, this is a very, very large car. Just over 1.8m tall and under 2.0m wide. In comparison to the recently launched EQS with its near-perfect drag coefficient, the GLS is the aerodynamic equivalent of a 5-bedroom house. So, it’s even more surprising to note that the GLS can sprint to 100km/h in just a mere 4.2 seconds! There’s a remarkable 450kW and 850Nm on tap from its 4.0-litre V8 with a soundtrack that is distinctively AMG. It’s wonderful!

Our route involved a mixture of mountain passes, highway cruising and a final bashing around Gerotek testing facility near Hartebeesport. No matter the road, speed or driving mode you’re in, the GLS 63 remains impeccably comfortable and effortlessly quick. Air suspension with special spring/damper set-up and adaptive adjustable damping all contribute towards a very special drive.

Around the high-speed bowl at Gerotek, I was able to push the car to a maximum speed of 220km/h before I realized I am not Max Verstappen and my talent will eventually run out. Even then, the GLS 63 never felt spooked by the conditions and behaved exactly as you would expect from any other AMG.

It’s a fantastic balance of luxury and performance but that does come with a hefty price tag. You’ll need to part with just short of R3.2 million to get into one and the options list is exorbitant. Oh, and if you want the Monoblock rims as pictured above, you will have to part with an additional R80 000. Although it received a mixed reaction from local media, I think it will work well with Mercedes-Benz’s clientele.

Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S SUV/Coupe

The fourth generation GLE made its debut back in 2019 and remained one of Mercedes best-selling models. Although, it is interesting to note that global sales figures from Q1 of 2021 reported that BMW outsold Mercedes-Benz by 45 000 units, with the former reaching 636 606, while the latter came in with 590 999 units.

So then, apples for apples, is the GLE 63 short in terms of power to chief rival BMW and their X5 M Competition? Well, no. The BMW produces 460kW and 750Nm while the Mercedes, fitted with the same engine as the GLS 63, produces a mighty 450kW and 850Nm, plus an additional 16kW and 250Nm provided through electrical assistance that can be used temporarily.

The 9-speed transmission, which is also fitted to the GLS, made easy work of rapid shifts during our time at Gerotek where we were able test the cars acceleration. 100km/h comes up in 3.8 seconds, so it surprisingly made easy work of the heftier GLS in the drag races.

In terms of pricing, the standard GLE 63 S retails for R2 885 000 while the coupe variant is slightly more expensive at R2 948 000. BMW retails their X5 M Competition for slightly cheaper, give or take R50 000, which when you’re spending this amount of money is irrelevant. So, which one should you pick? Well, that’s entirely up to you but if we’re talking just Mercedes, the Coupe is certainly the head turner out of the lot and that’s where I would spend my hypothetical money.

Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 S SUV/Coupe

Not all models that we tested at the local launch were fitted with the 4.0-litre V8. The 53 models are fitted with a 3.0-litre six-cylinder in-line engine that again is aided by electrical assistance. Power figures are healthy at 320kW and 520Nm plus an additional 16kW and 250Nm is available from the batteries and alternators fitted.

For the average man or woman, those figures are more than sufficient and it’s only when you pit the 53 variants against the more powerful 63’s, do you really notice a power deficit. But in saying that, a 0-100km/h sprint time of 5.3 seconds is still commendable and it’s worth noting that in all instances that I was in or against a 53 model, it was the quickest off the line, until the inevitable power advantage of the V8 comes into play.

The GLE 53 manages to strike a comfortable balance of everyday liveability with exhilarating performance. Pricing for the standard GLE 53 is R1 837 000 while the Coupe will set you back R1 925 000. So, that’s roughly a R1 million saving over the more powerful 63 model but you are not being short-changed. Regardless of the model, the 53 variants are often the sweet spot in the range and in my opinion, it’s the same case here.

You can’t reasonably use all that power, all the time. In fact, there are very few instances where you would need the additional power of the V8. And dare I say it, Mercedes-Benz currently makes a better 3.0 inline six cylinder than BMW. I’ll probably be shot at dawn for uttering this but it is all in the name of good journalism!

The updated Suzuki Swift is all about the right feels!

Suzuki recently hosted automotive press for the national launch of their mid-cycle refresh of their best-selling Swift model. We spent the morning venturing around in the new compact hatchback along some of Gauteng’s country roads to see if this car had #alltherightfeels. 

The Swift has been one of Suzuki’s best selling vehicles since its inception 17 years ago and retains this title with their third generation iteration. After 3 years on the market, with sales commencing in 2018, the current model has undergone an extremely minor face-lift with subtle changes on the exterior and interior. What hasn’t changed is that it remains the same frugal, compact and fun value-for-money car that it was when the range was originally conceived in 2004. 

While this update may be regarded as completely minor and even unidentifiable to certain consumers, it includes some aesthetic updates which should entice the young-at-heart. This comes primarily in the form of updated exterior colours, including two-tone options on the upper-range GLX models and more bling up front with a chrome strip that divides the number plate and Suzuki logo. New 15” alloy wheels sit on all four corners of the car although the more affordable base models still feature steelies with hubcaps.

The other important updates that are included into the range are even less visible to the eye but enhance the safety and overall driving experience. The inclusion of rear parking sensors and electronic stability control (ESC) across the range add to the growing list of standard features on this affordable competitor. A useful reverse camera is also included on the GLX models while hill-start assist is standard on the automated manual transmission derivatives. 

The inner workings of the Swift remain completely unchanged, with the surprisingly punchy 1.2-litre engine from before still delivering 61kW and 113Nm. While this number is rather low by today’s standards for naturally aspirated motors, its feather weight of 950kg justifies the low displacement and figures. What this affords the driver with is a combined fuel consumption as low as 4.9l/l00km which remains one of its primary selling points (although we achieved just higher than that on our short test). 

Not once did the car feel lacking in power, nipping from robot to robot with ease yet still comfortable enough to drop a gear and overtake on highways and single lane roads. The only gripe came with the lack of a 6th gear in the manual derivatives for highway driving. While the gearbox is tremendously smooth and tactile to change in both sedate and enthusiastic driving scenarios, sitting above 3000rpm at the national highway speed limit could have been better optimized. 

Over its 17 year lifespan, the Swift has retained its iconic silhouette and compact stature. The third generation has evolved design features to create a more cohesive, sleek bodywork which includes concealed rear door handles and more compact wing mirrors. While the steep, angular rake of the A-pillar makes it easily distinguishable to the dozens of other competitors in the segment, you do get mild wind noises emanating from the feature which exacerbates exponentially the faster you begin to go. 

The inside of the Swift retains the same spacious cabin for passengers and the driver from before. While boot capacity is a great improvement from its precursor, its meagre 265-litres of volume fall short and are nowhere near class leading. While some questionable Maruti made build quality issues can be subtly found, the cabin remains a pleasant place to be. The 7” infotainment system forms the focal point of the central fascia while lower end derivatives are less equipped with modern tech. Android Auto or Apple CarPlay connectivity are easily accessible via the infotainment system and enable the latest music or podcasts to be blasted through the sound system of the GLX with relative ease. A reverse camera is neatly concealed within the back bumper but has limited height visibility because of this. 

Prior to driving, I was worried that the naturally aspirated motor would be grossly underpowered. While other markets have the more powerful 1.0 litre turbo motor on sale, Suzuki SA have justified their decision for the not bringing the more powerful variant in for its added expense which would place it just just below the R336 000 Swift Sport, undercutting the compact hot hatch and ultimately removing the affordability factor of the car. Speaking of which, the range of GA, GL and GLX models span between an affordable R180 900 for the GA all the way through to R234 900 for the well equipped GLX AMT with the standard inflationary increases from its precursor. All prices include a 5-year/100 000 km promotional warranty and 2-year/30 000 km service plan.

After a stellar year of sales in 2020 and a continually growing dealership network, it is well expected that models like the Swift and Toyota joint venture Vitara Brezza will continue to usher in this upward trend and be at the forefront of sales in 2021. 

The updated Swift in conclusion remains exactly what you would expect of it: a frugal, nippy and affordable city slicker. With the competitive budget hatchback category, few others have the impressive track record of  7.5 million global sales and counting (since inception) and it is easy to see why! 

Stacking up the new Kia Rio against its older sibling

Is the updated fourth generation Kia Rio an upgrade from its predecessor? We recently got to spend some time with the new Rio where we were able to stack it up to its preceding sibling that arguably catalysed a rebirth for the brand not only in Mzansi but globally too. 

Although Kia, the largest manufacturer and exporter of vehicles from South Korea, has been in existence since 1944, our local market only got to experience what the Seoul based marque had to offer in 1997. The first generation Rio was introduced two years later, just before the turn of the century but was ridiculed for its poor build quality and driving experience. In more recent generations, the Rio nameplate has evolved and improved over the years and has turned out to be a strong local contender that has helped carry the brand, specifically in the past decade. 

The third generation, according to sales numbers, was the most successful of its kind averaging just under half a million units per annum since its inception in 2011. It is one of the cars that led to the upward sales trend of the brand and elevated the perception to consumers with improvements in styling, safety and comfort. The most recent fourth generation, originally released in 2017 has not fared as well, with annual sales numbers just above half that of its predecessor. Even with the mid-cycle refresh from 2020, the restyled offering can’t seem to generate the same momentum from before. So why exactly is that? 

The third generation set the benchmark high. It was an affordable, quirky, funky and young-at-heart subcompact car that was easily accessible and comfortable to drive. Perfectly suited and priced for yuppies or students. Its stylish exterior and comfortable cabin could be paired with a selection of petrol and diesel engines with an assortment of trims according to budget, although the local market was only afforded with petrol motors. 

Our time was spent with the more modestly priced but less kitted-out 1.4 LS variant mated to a conventional automatic 6-speed gearbox. From the outside, the updated range has undergone extremely minor changes with a reprofiled bumper and updated grille. It is still distinguishable and easily recognisable as a Rio from the modish design legacy from the preceding third generation shape. This is a good thing, it is one of the better looking contenders in the B-hatchback segment but the styling has the same issue as the rest of the car. Kia seems to have rested on their laurels with no significant progress from its predecessor.

Naturally, the new generation includes well integrated technology and creature comforts that were not obtainable a decade ago. The facelifted derivatives all feature a suitably sized 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system which has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. Standard USB charging ports can be found in the front and the back of the cabin, while bluetooth connectivity and streaming is available through the infotainment display which reverberates via 4 speakers and 2 tweeters around the cabin, even on the base models. 

In comparison to its predecessor, the quality and solid interior materials make for a welcome improvement while retaining its durable nature for years to come. That being said, there is an abundance of hard plastic on the LS model, but subtle leather details are standard on the more expensive derivatives. The dashboard and drivers dials are sensibly laid out and intuitive to use, but seem to be a simplified evolution to its predecessor’s interior which I prefer, particularly the scoped speedometer and rev-counter. Despite some vacant buttons reserved for higher end units, the interior was still a comfortable place to spend time in, with both drivers and passengers furnished with upscale spaciousness and amenities. 

While the new platform that the fourth generation Rio is built upon is sharper and more rigid in handling, it comes at the compromise of additional weight coming in at as much as 50 kilograms. This does not sound like very much but the 1.4-litre motor with a maximum power output of 73kW (6kW less than before) can often feel lethargic when paired with the limited air pressure at Johannesburg altitude making it feel less spritely than its predecessor. The conventional 6-speed automatic gearbox trundles around comfortably with the occasional jerk and does the job without much complaint. I would personally recommend the manual option with the same number of cogs which makes the motor feel alive and controlled. The brakes are sharp and direct with immediate response from pedal input like before but the lower end derivatives have interestingly enough done away with rear discs from the previous generation and now incorporates drum brakes.

The fuel economy on the Rio for combined driving is rated just below 8l/100km while we saw just over that amount from our travels. A number which is simply too high if it is competing with the smaller displaced turbocharged variants from Ford and VW. The salvation of this funky looking Kia offering is its price tag, with our model priced at just under R310 000 with a fair amount of standard equipment, it is competitively positioned in one of the more cut throat segments in our local car market. Regardless of price, I would opt for a derivative with the projection headlights which provide more nighttime visibility than the outdated halogen reflector counterparts. 

Having driven the previous generation Rio while I was still a student and epitomising the typical young driver that it was intended for, I had an excitement of experiencing what the latest offering was all about. While it feels much the same as before, inadvertently supplementing my nostalgia, I can’t help but feel that it was not enough of a step forward living in the grand shadow cast by its older sibling. However, this is still a great car, one that is comfortable and familiar for just about anyone of your younger family members or immediate friends to become acquainted with and start blasting their music through.